By all accounts, things were not looking good for Bishop England through five innings of Saturday’s deciding game of the Class AAA state championship series against Seneca.
The Bishops trailed, 2-1, heading into the sixth and Seneca pitcher Tristen Hudson had set down 10 straight hitters.
An error to start the sixth opened the door for the Bishops, who proceeded to belt three doubles in the inning to take a 4-2 lead.
Bishop England senior pitcher Shawn Runey, a tough luck 2-0 loser in game one of the series, made the lead stand and pitched a complete game for the 4-2 victory. Bishop England won the best-of-three series, two games to one.
The championship was Bishop England’s eighth overall and their first since 2011. The Bishops finish with a 24-9 record while Seneca ends at 24-6.
“I’m shocked, period,” Bishop England coach Mike Darnell said. “We had two big injuries early in the season. We had to move guys around. The kid on the mound (Runey) came to us as a seventh-grader and he was five-foot-two and weighed 87 pounds and he just went the whole deal, twice, and gave us a great chance.”
Runey, the only senior on the field for Bishop England, was determined to give his team a chance to win on Saturday.
“I’m not the best player on this team,” Runey said. “We have a lot of great players and we’re a true team. But I really wanted to be on the mound today. I wanted this for me and for this team. I was confident that I could do my job and the other guys had my back.”
The teams combined for five total runs in the first two games but managed three runs in the first inning on Saturday.
The Bishops scored an unearned run in the top of the first when Chris Dengler’s grounder to third was misplayed for an error, scoring Gregory Sanders who walked to start the frame.
Seneca scratched for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, using two hits and an error to take the early lead. Pitcher Tristen Hudson delivered the first run on an RBI single, scoring Furman Wilson. Walker Lathrop followed with a fielder’s choice grounder to score Matthew Burgess.
Bishop England loaded the bases in the second, using a hit batsman, a single and a walk, but failed to score.
“I thought we really messed it up early,” Darnell said. “We were tight, so tight. We let our emotions get the best of us. I admit, I was concerned, especially with their guy on the mound.”
Both pitchers seemed to settle in after the second, each breezing through the third inning. Hudson, a West Virginia signee, set the Bishops down in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
The Bishops snapped that streak in the sixth when Leo Albano reached on an error to open the inning. Dengler followed with a double inside the bag at third. With runners on second and third, Hudson got Geoffrey Gilbert on strikes for the first out.
With Will Bastian at the plate, Albano scored from third on a passed ball, tying the game. Bastian followed a with a double down the line in left, scoring Dengler and giving the Bishops a 3-2 lead. Matthew McManus belted the third double of the inning, just missing a homerun to deep left, to push the lead to 4-2.
“All year we had one big inning and I just kept waiting for it,” Darnell said. “We hit some balls down the line and McManus really got hold of his ball. We just hung in there.”
Runey pitched around an error in the sixth and the teams went to the final inning with Bishop England leading, 4-2. Runey retired the seventh in order and allowed only three baserunners over the final four innings.
“I wasn’t coming out of this game,” said Runey, who will play next year at Patrick Henry Community College. “I’ve waited for this all of my life. I felt calm in the last inning. I knew I had it in me to finish.”
The baseball title was Bishop England’s ninth state championship of the 2016-17 school year, their first in Class AAA.